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What guidelines should I follow for safer sex behavior?

The safest sexual behavior is having only one partner-someone who is not infected with a sexually transmitted infection (STI) and who has sex only with you. However, you can't always be sure of your partner's sexual practices. If you are having sex with only one person, who has other partners, you can be exposed to STIs from those other people. No method of prevention is 100 percent effective, but the following strategies can reduce your chances of getting an STI:

  1. Barrier methods Use barrier protection for sex, even when you and your partner(s) have no symptoms; you may not realize you have an infection. Latex condoms (rubbers), which can be used during vaginal, oral, and anal intercourse, are the safest and best-known barrier protection.
  2. Use protection even if you don't need birth control. Women who have had a hysterectomy or a tubal ligation, or who have gone through menopause, cannot get pregnant, but still need to use protection to reduce the risk of getting an STI. If you are using an IUD, a diaphragm, or hormonal methods of birth control to prevent pregnancy, you can still get an STI if you do not use a barrier method of protection.
  3. Lather up, then cover up. Washing the genitals, anal area, and hands before and after sex, and between anal and vaginal contact, is good hygiene and may cut down on urinary tract infections, but washing or douching will not prevent STI transmission.
  4. Watch out for blood. Be careful during sexual activities that may involve blood. Direct contact with blood—including menstrual blood—of an infected person can transmit infections, including HIV or hepatitis.
  5. Know your risk. If you have sex that puts you at high risk for getting an STI, make sure you are well protected. Anal and vaginal intercourse are high-risk sexual activities for STI transmission; kissing and massaging are not.
  6. It's never too late for safer sex. If you have not been safe in the past, that does not mean being safe will not help you in the future. There's no better time to start than the present. If you do not have an STI, practicing safer sex will ensure that you don't get one.
  7. Make foreplay the main course instead of just the appetizer. Touching, stroking, and caressing each other can be very erotic and fulfilling. If you don't have a condom and you want to make love, this kind of contact (sometimes calle
Our Bodies, Ourselves: A New Edition for a New Era

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Our Bodies, Ourselves: A New Edition for a New Era

America's best-selling book on all aspects of women's health With more than four million copies sold, "Our Bodies, Ourselves" is "the" classic resource that women of all ages can turn to for...

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Important: This content reflects information from various individuals and organizations and may offer alternative or opposing points of view. It should not be used for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. As always, you should consult with your healthcare provider about your specific health needs.